Why Take Breaks?
Back when I struggled with exercise, any excuse to take a rest day seemed good enough. I’ve somehow flipped to the opposite side, where I would happily exercise multiple times every day if my body would allow it. But I’ve learned the hard way that it doesn’t. Maybe if you build up to it gradually and carefully, but I wasn’t in such a situation when I hurt my shoulder. Not giving your body adequate rest increases your risk of injury, which will force you to stop moving for much longer than a day and can cause a big delay to your progress.
How Much Time Off?
Most people should take at least one or two rest days a week.
Every couple of months, I take a longer break, meaning a 3-4 straight days of no strenuous exercise. This usually happens naturally around holidays or other travel. It also means I don’t have to feel guilty around those times for taking a bit of time off. I often find I come back feeling fresher, stronger and more motivated.
What is a Rest Day?
Some people consider yoga or cardio to be their “rest day”. That can be true, but not for every kind of yoga or a very long long run. You know your body best, so judge for yourself, but keep in mind it’s better to be safe than sorry. Walking and gentle stretching should definitely be fine though.
If you’re interested in this topic, I recommend the book Peak Performance by Brad Stulberg and Steve Magness. It has a lot of good advice on other aspects of training too.